Father’s Day is a day set apart to celebrate fatherhood, recognize the influence of fathers in our homes and society, and foster paternal bonds. It is also celebrated to honor and commemorate our fathers and forefathers. While it is celebrated in the U.S. on the third Sunday of June, in many other countries the officially recognized date of Father’s Day varies. It is believed that Father’s Day was first observed on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington, through the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd, a Christian woman and the daughter of American Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart. Sonora’s mother died when she was age 16, and she wanted a day that would commemorate and honor fathers like her own, who had raised her and five other children. Once she began soliciting the idea of an official Father’s Day, she met some opposition and even derision, but she persevered. A bill was introduced in Congress in 1913, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson spoke at a Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington, wanting to make it an official holiday, but Congress still resisted. In 1924, Calvin Coolidge became involved, and in 1930 a national committee was formed by various trade groups in an effort to legitimize the holiday. The battle continued, and in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson made a proclamation for the third Sunday of June to be Father’s Day. Finally, it was made an official national holiday when President Nixon signed a similar proclamation in 1972.
While God’s Word is silent about any day being set aside specifically to honor fathers, the Bible does recognize a special place of honor for men who were leaders or examples of excellence in certain skills, such as Jabal, who was “the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock” and his brother Jubal, who was “the father of all who play the harp and flute” (Genesis 4:20-21). Also, when Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, God told him, “I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5), clearly indicating fatherhood as a place of honor in His eyes. Thus, even though the Bible does not mention a Father’s Day, we can clearly see that God does recognize the importance of fathers and even gave them special honor throughout history.
Furthermore, we can follow this theme of fatherhood in the very person of God Himself through countless scriptures (Matthew 5:45; 6:9,32; Romans 1:7; 15:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6). There are many instances that speak of Jesus Christ, the Son, honoring His Father and honoring the will of His Father (e.g., John 17:1 and John 17:5). The apostle Paul taught that to honor one’s earthly father is not only a commandment but the first commandment that, when obeyed, has a promise of things going well and living long on the earth. “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3). In light of these verses, and many others, it would seem to be perfectly God-honoring to celebrate a day in which fathers, the God-given spiritual head of the family, could and should be honored. Ultimately, whether or not to celebrate a specific day or holiday is a matter of personal preference. We have the freedom to celebrate and the freedom not to celebrate if we so choose.